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The n00b sets a soundpost!

Posted by bj on Sunday, July 27, 2008

So I got my newest old fiddle via UPS day before yesterday. It's a wonderful French fiddle, made by D. Salzard approximately a hundred years or so ago, and with a highly figured and beautiful one piece back, but I couldn't play it because the soundpost was rattling around inside. And Steve had already told me that he has a schedule this weekend that would break the back of a galley slave, so there was no help to be had there.

And it was sitting there staring at me, begging to be picked up and played.

And I'm so sick of the nasally whinyscratchy quality of that Hermet Schartel Romanian thing that I could scream.

I had remembered reading about setting a soundpost on this forum. How hard could it be?

Well, it turned out to be surprisingly easy. Yeah, I know the gods are probably laughing and will make the next ten attempts bugger all, since I just made that statement.

Anyway, most of the time was taken in finding a wire clotheshanger, since I, the vintage clothing afficionado, banished them from the house ages ago because of their destructive tendencies. But I finally found one tucked behind a box in the back of a closet. Then I had to find the wirecutters and the file. I'm not a neat freak and stuff like that can be in any one of a dozen junk drawers or the car trunk or the truck glove compartment or . . . anyway, I finally pulled together my stuff, created the tool, filed the "knife" end (and gouged my knuckle in the process), wrapped the sucker with tape (the tool, not the knuckle!) so it wouldn't hurt the f hole sides, and got the soundpost out of the fiddle. Yes, the knife end slotted into the soundpost quite nicely. Yes, I could see the angles cut into the top and bottom of the post and figure which angle I had to set it at. And the slot in the post was already placed so that it would be relatively easy to line up properly. Nice to be able to follow the tracks of those who have gone before me!

But the first attempt showed me that my tool was faulty. That knife end was almost an inch too long. So I recut and refiled.

Second try I knocked the soundpost off the tool.

Third time was the charm. I swear it was almost too easy. It tilted right into place, and a slight bend down of the tool got the tool off the post slick as can be. And she stayed right where I put her! From inserting the post into the f hole to taking the tool back out of the f hole took all of a half minute, if that long. Amazing.

Now I don't pretend to having enough skill to make this wonderful fiddle I bought sound right on my own. I just wanted to get it playable since I was impatient to hear her song. And I accomplished that. WOOHOO!

She's not all that loud, but she's very resonant and sweet, and with a surprisingly gutsy and growly G. The upper register has that somewhat reedy quality that the Classical Weenies like. Hearing it up close and personal I now know why. It's a very different sound than the Stockdale, but I like it. A lot. And it's possible that good setup can make her louder. Or am I wrong about that? I do think that the soundpost is probably just a bit closer to the bridge foot than she should be, and I'm not touching it since I know for sure I'll knock it over. I'll let Steve fine tune it at my next lesson.

Anyway, I'll be posting some pics later on today.

** UPDATE! **

Pics have been posted! The Fabulous D. Salzard!



6 comments on “The n00b sets a soundpost!”

FiddlerFaddler Says:
Sunday, July 27, 2008 @9:16:35 PM

Optimally setting the sound post can dramatically improve the tone and loudness.  If the strings are old, the tone quality can improve a surprising amount by replacing them with quality strings.

Regarding your Romanian thang, if it has a metalic tail piece, replace it with a a woooden one.  If you really get desperate, you might consider switching from metal core strings to synthetic core strings.

bj Says:
Monday, July 28, 2008 @5:40:26 AM

Thanks, FiddlerFaddler! The strings on the Salzard are new, so hopefully when Steve adjusts the soundpost and bridge optimally I'll be fine for now.

Re the Romanian thang, I'm debating whether to do anything at all. I now have one good fiddle at home and one in the shop due to come home soon. The only reason I might do anything with is my two upcoming Fiddle Camps. Here in PA we can go from wet rainy horribly humid 90something degree weather to 50 something dry and cool within the same day in September, and both the camps I'm going to are then. And I'm not sure I want to subject either of my good fiddles to those sort of extremes. Re synthetic strings, that's what's on there now and it only helped a little. Thisromainian thang plays well and is set up nice but I think she's always gonna be a croaker rather than a coloratura.

brya31 Says:
Monday, July 28, 2008 @6:12:46 AM

bj you are going to be a luthier before you know it, LOL

bj Says:
Monday, July 28, 2008 @6:48:24 AM

No, not a luthier, I'm much more apt to use my eyeball than a measuring tape, and with the way fiddles are put together that is definitely a no-no. But with my newfound addiction to old and wonderful fiddles, I will need to learn at least the rudiments or be eating peanut butter just so I can afford my luthier bill!

fiddlepogo Says:
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 @9:24:59 AM

bj,

#1, don't let your opinion of the Schartel color your opinions of all

Romanian instruments- I have a Romanian fiddle (Knilling Bucharest 4KF) and I like it.

#2, it might be partly the finish- is the fiddle shiny? Shiny lacquer finishes are brittle, and don't soften the tone of the fiddle like varnish does. If it's lacquer there's not too much you can do about that. The Schartel 902 and 903 fiddles are right at the price point where they could be either lacquer or varnish.

#3, There are a number of things that will improve a fiddle's

sound.  The main thing is the right strings.  My fiddles sound great with Thomastik Precision Lights, but nasal with Super Sensitives.

And there are many other little tweaks.

#4. A new fiddle has fresh glue joints, and these don't allow the top and back to vibrate very freely.  One of the reasons fiddles improve with age is that the glue joints dry out, and develop just

enough microscopic cracks to allow things to flex more.

It is actually possible to "massage" a fiddles top to induce some of these cracks and improve the tone.  Steve of Gianna Violins knows how to do this.

#5.  Fiddles get "played in"... the top gets used to vibrating instead

of sitting still in a case.  The more tone you are getting out of the strings, the more they shake that fiddle top, and get it used to vibrating.  I know how to get pretty good tone out of a fiddle,

and so I make those strings vibrate close to their max, and the fiddle likes it.

I've played a couple beginner's fiddles, and they were surprised

at the tone I could get out of them, and felt that the fiddles even

SOUNDED better for them afterwards, after having such a workout.

Some people set up special rigs to SHAKE the fiddles and artificially vibrate them too.

You can also use the Schartel for cross tuning,

and see how it does.  Use light gauge steel strings for AEAE.

The sympathetic vibrations may give the fiddle a better shaking.

bj Says:
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 @7:16:28 PM

Interesting about the vibration stuff, FiddlePogo. I'm considering relegating that Schartel to just be a campfire fiddle. It's definitely sprayed on lacquer. I don't mind so much since I paid 37 bucks for the whole outfit (and really wanted the excellent hardshell case for my good fiddle!) It was lucky I got the whole shebang since that's about the time the Stockdale's neck sagged like the Viagra wore off, and at that point I was glad to have a second fiddle that was at least playable. But I've never liked this fiddle much. Understand, I have two fiddles that are enormous fun to play, so it's going to be really hard for me to reach for that romanian fiddle other than for things like weekend fiddle camps when they predict rain.

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